It’s constantly raining and the clouds are heavy and melancholy today, and for some reason I just want to be left alone and retreat into my room with my thoughts.

It is a writing and organizing and cleaning day. It is one of those evenings that I think about my friends who are far away, scattered around the world, who I am so very privileged to know. I realize that most people never think this–many people I know are cynics–but I am particularly proud of my generation of twenty-somethings. I cannot count with all my fingers and toes how many personal friends of mine, who have had all the opportunity to pursue a respectable well-compensated career, are instead living in developing regions doing good work and helping communities.

There’s immense reasons to be grateful. We are the recipient of centuries worth of wealth, invention, of insight, of collaboration. There is dizzying cross pollination and it gives me sad hope that most academics and newscasters have no idea what they’re talking about when they broadcast the fear-mongering news to everyone. At least the reality of my experience is that human beings everywhere are incredibly resilient and crave to overcome their difficulties. Every human being has the great capacity to be creative as well.

My rose and my writings. One export of Zinacanton is long-stem roses.

Rosa Amelia, one of the local girls who work in the paper-making department gave me a red rose from her garden today, and took me to a small town in the outskirts, in Zinacanton. While working, she was sweet and introverted. I thought I knew who she was, and I was a fool to assume several things thinking that her meager salary and soft demeanor might’ve indicated something about her thoughts. But as she started telling me about her life…how stupid I felt. (And this relates to how much optimism I have for groups of people who we assume to be impoverished and marginalized.

We sat in her room, which could have been any girl’s room around the world. Though she lived in a modest town in Chiapas, years ago she had befriended Stanford graduate students and foreign professionals alike, teaching them Tzotzil and going with them on ocean biology research trips in the reefs of the Caribbean. Beyond work she was attending university, specializing in nothing other than English Literature! In fact, even though she never speaks it, she does know English, and so did her beautiful sister. We had such a pleasant time over tacos and chorizo, we had so much to say, that I am astonished how easily we clicked.

She told me her dreams to study communication, and I promised to teach her what I knew. So. How many more of the Mayans on the street, at the markets, with little belongings, dressed in traditional clothing and having grandparents as curandera faith healers and dignified by their intricate braids and making tamales, speaking in their dialects… would turn out to be more similar to me than I ever imagined? How many more of the Indians in Maharashtra might have shared my same passions had I not thought they were too Indian to be like me? How many Scandinavians would understand me more than Americans do? Who would have thunk it, in this decade, my friends could be seemingly so diverse—from millionaires to Third World to academics to fruit sellers to ascetics—and yet, so same?

When I slow down…I marvel at how in this age, as a girl, I am able to come alone to developing countries across so many continents, classes and social divides and religions, and not only learn but be useful to local communities, but witness this transformation of borrowing inspiration and making something one’s own. Pay attention. It is easy to miss this sort of globalization happening… not with the McDonalds and the Walmarts… but with subtle techniques and with beautiful details in little places. I am one such catalyst.

Scenes from Zinacanton. Click on photo to enlarge.

Pues, te identificas mucho con la cultura china?” Valeria asked me, whether I relate with the Chinese culture, when I said that I was born in California though with Chinese ethnicity. In fact, I told her I feel just as comfortable with the Latin culture, and may be more familiar with Mexican culture than some Mexican-Americans. And sometimes this is the process we all have to go through to be *more* discriminating, not less. In developing countries, we talk about entrenched racial discrimination…as if prejudice between any separating factor were new. But in fact, most people are racists, and it is the rich and privileged who have had opportunities to get to know many types of people who become more tolerant, more discriminating, but on an individual basis. One would be blind to assume any culture is monolithic. After all, cultures are made of communities of people, and individuals have enormous capacity to be curious, and desire to know others.

Spanish Words of the Day:bicromato” potassium dichromate oxidizing agent, gum arabic | “emulción” silver chloride, for exposure techniques | “tripticos” pamphlets | “papel vegetal” rice paper or tissue paper | “grabado (del plato, en cobre, en madera)” plate/copper engraving, woodcuts


Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ – Samuel Beckett. Pretty straightforward stuff. If you don’t risk, you don’t win. Great only comes to those who jump. Sometimes you fall, absolutely–but when you fly? Well yeah! And me, I’d rather land on my butt a few times, knowing I’ve got wings and I’m gonna keep trying, than never try. There’s a lot of joy in keeping on…a lot of truth in the way we get better..a lot of hnor on doing something rather than lying down and giving up. And a lot of wow! in the moment it all comes together.” — from the movie Elizabethtown.